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To those Honoured, Noble, and right Virtuous Friends, myVisi
tants in the Marshalsea :
And to all other
unknown Favourers, who either privately or publicly wished
me well in my imprisonment.
NOBLE Friends, you whose virtues made me first in love with Virtue, and whose worths made me be thought worthy of your loves! I have now at last (you see) by God's assistance, and your encouragement, run through the purgatory of imprisonment, and by the worthy favour of a just Prince, stand free again, without the least touch
of dejected baseness. Seeing therefore I was grown beyond my hope so fortunate (after acknowledgement of my Creator's love, together with the unequalled clemency of so gracious a Sovereign) I was troubled to think by what means, I might erpress my thankfulness to so many well-deserving friends : no way I found to my desire, neither yet ability to perform when I found it. But at length considering with myself what you were (that is) such who favour honesty for no second reason but because you yourselves are good, and aim at no other reward but the witness of a sound conscience that
you do well, I found that thankfulness would prove the acceptablest present to suit with your dispositions ; and that I imagined could be no way better expressed than in manifesting your courtesies, and giving consent to your reasonable demands. For the first, I confess (with thanks to the disposer of all things, and a true grateful heart towards you) so many were the unexpected visitations and unhoped kindnessés received, both from some among you of my acquaintance and many other unknown well-wishers of my cause, that I was persuaded to entertain a much-better conceit of the times than I lately conceived, and assured myself, that Virtue had far more followers than I supposed.
Somewhat it disturbed me to behold our age's favourites, whilst they frowned on my honest enterprises, to take unto their protections the egregiousts fopperies ; yét much more was my contentment, in that I was respected by so many of you, amongst whom there are some, who can and may as much disesteem these, as they neglect me; nor could I fear their malice or contempt, whilst I enjoyed your favours; who (howsoever you are under-valued by fools for a time) shall leave unto your posterity 80 noble a memory, that your names shall be reverenced by Kings, when many of these who now flourish with a show of usurped greatness, shall either wear out of being, or, despoiled of all their patched reputation, grow contemptible in the eyes of their beloved mistress, the World. Your love it is, that (enabling me with patience to endure what is already past) hath made nié also careful better to prepare myself for all future misadventures, by bringing to my consideration, what the passion of my just discontentments had almost quite banished from my remembrance.
Further, to declare my thankfulness, in making apparent my willing mind to be commanded in any services of love which you shall think fit, (though I want ability to perform great matters) yet I have
according to some of your requests, been contented to give way to the printing of these Eclogues ; which though it to many seem a slight matter, yet being well considered of, may prove a strong argument of my readiness to give you content in a greater matter; for they being as you well know) begotten with little care, and preserved with less respect, gave sufficient evidence that I meant (rather than any way to deceive your trust) to give the world occasion of calling my discretion in question, as I now assure myself this will; and the sooner, because such expectations (I perceive) there are (of I know not what inventions) as would have been frustrated, though I had employed the utmost and very best of my endeavours.
Notwithstanding, for your sakes I have here adventured once again to make trial of the world's censures ; and what hath received being from your loves, I here re-dedicated to your worths, which if your noble dispositions will like well of, or if you will but reasonably respect what yourselves drew me unto, I shall be nothing displeased at others' cavils, but resting myself contented with your good opinions, scorn all the rabble of uncharitable detractors. For none, I know, will malign it, except those who either particularly malice my person, or profess